The brain is not designed for continuous learning, but needs some down time to process and “digest” what it is trying to learn. Throughout the day, our brain has natural lows and highs. Each cycle lasts approximately 90-110 minutes, and constant focused attention can only last approximately 10 minutes (The Brain-Movement Connection, n.d.). Therefore, in the classroom, teachers need to present essential material in short segments and then allow time for processing, whether individually or in small groups. Fatigue is a sure way to turn off the child’s learning switch. Frequent mental breaks are critical for increased learning and productivity.
One way to appropriately attend is to go slow, whether it is a movement or thinking about a new math concept. Fast, we can only do what we already know, and movement done automatically creates little or no new connections in the brain. In fact, when we do things quickly, the brain defaults to “already existing and deeply grooved patterns” (Baniel, 2012).
When we do things fast, or with automaticity, it is the brainstem at work. However, when we do things with attention, connections in the brain are being made. Have you ever driven home and not remembered how you got there? That was your brainstem at work. When trying to learn a new skill, it is important to hold off on going fast until the brain has formed the necessary connections and patterns for performing the new skill (Baniel, 2012).
Baniel (2002) explains that when one goes slow, it allows the brain a chance to feel. Einstein came up with his theory of relativity by imagining himself riding a ray of light, feeling the sensations of movement and the relationships of his body to the space around him. Many children do not know how to go slow and attend and notice the nuances in what they are doing. It is up to us at teachers to encourage and coach students to slow down and to notice relationships and patterns to help develop a deeper conceptual understanding.
--This is from my book: Movement Makes Math Meaningful: Away from the Desk Math Lessons Aligned with the Common Core
Lisa Ann de Garcia, MA, MEd.